How important is it to clean your fermentation or brewing equipment? Do you need to sterilize it? This article aims to provide clarity on this matter!
There are several factors that will ensure that your desired ferment strain can easily outcompete unwanted microorganisms.
However, just like when two “enemy” strains sit near a pool, it’s better to take extra precautions to make sure our VIP bacteria aren’t intimidated.
Prior to starting a fermentation, all containers, instruments, worktops, and hands (!) should be thoroughly washed and rinsed to minimize the presence of unwanted microorganisms.
There’s no need to become obsessed with sterilization because it’s often unnecessary.
Do I Need to Sanitize My Equipment?
Not all home ferments require sanitized equipment. Regular cleaning might be sufficient. It really depends on the type of fermentation!
For more delicate fermentations such as alcoholic fermentation (beer, sake, root beer, cider, mead, etc.), sanitation is necessary.
ACE Fermentation Tanks
Acidic or Mixed Fermentation
Acidic or mixed fermentations (vegetables, kombucha, water kefir, vinegar, etc.) are robust and often strong enough to prevent invaders from taking over. A good wash is enough.
Milk-based fermentations (yogurt, milk kefir, cheese, etc.) have a moderate strength.
It’s probably wise to clean your containers and instruments the first few times. After a few successful tests with your equipment, you can proceed without cleaning.
Cleaning: Wash with dishwashing detergent and hot water, then rinse thoroughly with clear water.
Sanitation: Rinse with a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach in 4 liters (16 cups) of water for 30 seconds, then rinse thoroughly with clear water. Always clean the equipment that has been cleaned previously!
By following this sanitizing method, there may still be spores or microorganisms present, but in insufficient quantities to contaminate the fermentation. Sanitizer products for brewers can also be used.
Scalding or spraying alcohol at 70% for sanitation is not recommended. Boiling water can cause carboys to crack, and alcohol sold as a disinfectant in pharmacies often contains a bittering agent which, without proper rinsing, could contaminate your food.